Books #57

My goal for this year was to read 150 books. Last year I read 170 books and felt really proud about that. I am not going to reach my goal. Between now and the end of the year I will probably be at 135. It’s been hard to read a lot this year, even though I have a lot more time! I just didn’t have the motivation for the beginning of the pandemic and I’ve been watching a lot more TV this year that reading. Oh well. Here are some of my recent recommendations.

1 – My Life So Far by Jane Fonda

I enjoyed this book a lot!

I didn’t know much about Jane Fonda. I knew she was an actress, married a few times, had a famous father, what a political activist and got in trouble for protesting the Vietnam War. I became a fan when I saw Grace and Frankie (great show!). So reading this book was very enlightening.

Her life has been impressive, crazy, and very full. She spoke very openly about her life, her struggles, her difficulties in her marriages, her struggles with eating disorders and her relationship with her father.

Her mother committed suicide (in a really awful way) when she was really young and then she spent her entire life struggling to connect and be seen by her cold fish father. She has a very deep wound from that.

“In the confines of our home, Dad’s darker side would emerge. We, his intimates, lived in constant awareness of the minefield we had to tread so as not to trigger his rage. This environment of perpetual tension sent me a message that danger lies in intimacy, that far away is where it is safe. Then there were his rages. They were not the Mediterranean, get-it-all-out-and-over-with variety. They were cold, shut-you-down, hard-to-come-back-from Protestant rages. Except for Peter, who didn’t seem to pay attention, we all took great care to avoid his trip wire.”

I was most fascinated by her extensive activism. She did SO much good for marginalized people. I know that she is now super into environmental and climate change activism, which is awesome. People that can use their fame and fortune for good are awesome in my book.

“I learned that if you want to reduce population growth, you have to increase the supply of contraceptives, but that this must be done in a culturally sensitive, nonjudgmental manner, and women must be offered a choice of methods.”

Her marriages are all different, but the common theme was that she lost herself in relationships and became whatever the men her life wanted her to be. It was really sad and I never felt like she “fixed” that part of herself. I particularly did NOT like her third husband, Ted Turner. Yes he was an environmental activist and did some really good things for conservation. But he was such a narcissist and the kind of man that bulldozes over everyone in his life, especially women. He was controlling, immature and needy. He NEEDED his women to basically just be constant companions with no job, no hobbies, no interests of their own. SO MANY RED FLAGS.

The book is long, but until the last 30% of the book (the Ted Turner years) it didn’t drag. I was fascinated by her chapters about Vietnam, her activism, the fallout and how she tried to fix her mistakes.

The book is very good and I enjoyed it a lot. I would recommend it!

2 – The Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison

This is the author that has the podcast, Food Psych, that I’ve recommended. Since I enjoy her podcast so much I was excited to read her book. It’s very good (although the title of the book is very gimmicky to me).

“Dieting felt like unlocking a new level in life. I started getting compliments on my weight loss left and right…”

This book is really important, I think, for everyone to read. It’s such an eye-opening conversation I think we all need to have. I didn’t know much about “diet culture” and how invasive and pervasive it is in our every day life, our culture, our psychology. It is so incredibly damaging for a lot of people—even if you aren’t unhealthily skinny like how most people picture “anorexic” people. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and it’s important to recognize that.

There were so many things in this book that I loved and that were helpful plus informative. Things I had no idea about before. It really made me stop and think about how much I have been in diet culture. I recommend everyone read this book, even if you aren’t “dieting”.

3 – Love, Loss and What We Ate: A Memoir by Padma Lakshmi

I love Top Chef and didn’t know a ton about Padma, so picked up this book. I thought it was a fun, interesting read. She is definitely a privileged woman, so sometimes it was hard to be sympathetic about her life — she was a model who had many rich men taking care of her and giving her a lifestyle. She came across as whiny and unappreciative many times.

However, she did have some hardships that were interesting to read about. I liked all of the stories about her childhood in India, about her culture as a Hindu and Indian woman, about the women in her life in India. I enjoyed reading about her becoming a mother, and it was commendable for her to come out about endometriosis–something a lot of people don’t know about. It’s good when celebrities can open up about an issue and shine a light on it.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book, even if I rolled my eyes at the privileged rich lifestyle.

4 – Monogamy by Sue Miller

This is a different kind of book, interesting writing style. The story unfolds slowly, but not in a bad way, and reveals deep things through different characters that are intertwined. But not in the clunky way that books often do it.

It’s a story about Annie and Graham, married for 30 years. Like with a lot of marriages there are ups and downs but when Graham dies unexpectedly, Annie is forced to face things she didn’t want to realize.

“She would find herself standing someplace in the house—in front of the half-empty closet or in Graham’s study or facing the bathroom mirror or at the kitchen windows, looking out—and have no idea what impulse had brought her there, or how long before.”

The book is about how grief is processed, how friendships deepen, how people heal. It was a powerful and emotional book. I think most people, touched by grief in their lives, can relate to this book.

5 – Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

When I first started this book, I wasn’t sure I was going to continue reading. The topic is a difficult one for a parent–when your young child is taken or missing…

“Hope lasts only so long, can carry you only so far. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it’s all you have. It keeps you going when there’s nothing else to hold on to. But hope can also be terrible. It keeps you wanting, waiting, wishing for something that might never happen. It’s like a glass wall between where you are and where you want to be. You can see the life you want, but you can’t have it. You’re a fish in a bowl.”

And also, all of the characters in the book were very unlikable. But I hung on and kept reading and got sucked into the story and the drama. So many lies, so much terribleness. But the ending was satisfying and I ended up really enjoying the book.

6 – Memorial by Bryan Washington

This was a very interesting and layered book that makes you think about a lot of things. Benson, African American, and Mike, Asian, are an “unlikely” couple. They do not seem to have a lot in common but have fallen together in kind of a stilted way. It feels like both are reluctant to be vulnerable, to open up, to say I love you. They both hold back. But when their relationship seems to reach a breaking point, Mike finds out his dad is dying. His mom has just arrived for an extended visit, but Mike gets on a plane to Japan to be with his estranged, dying father.

Benson is left at home in Houston, to entertain Mike’s mother for who knows how long. It’s a book about grief and loss, healing wounds, relationships, trying to find a way to be vulnerable and admit things to your partner. It’s about race, cultures, gay relationships, HIV…so may layers and so many topics, but they all intertwine nicely.

The writing style is very different, but once you get used to it, it works.

7 – Cross Her Heart by Melinda Leigh

This was a surprisingly good book. I downloaded it on a whim for my free prime read. The description wasn’t exceptionally exciting but the book turned out to be a good read. I read it fast. The characters were well-developed and didn’t have annoying (re: weakly written) “quirks”. The story was good and I did not guess the culprit. I also ended the book feeling excited to read the second!

These posts have Amazon Affiliate links. Happy reading!

Books #55

My goal for 2020 was to read 150 books, which is usually doable for me. At this point, I am 10 books behind in order to reach my goal. I am thinking I won’t be making it this year. Oh well. Pandemic and all. There were some times this year where I could not focus on books and it was just too hard to read books. That’s ok.

Here are some of the good ones I read recently:

1 – The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Excellent! Very well written, I loved the style and how the story was told by each person at the wedding. The atmosphere was perfect for a thriller/mystery: a remote, haunted island in Ireland with a crumbling castle remodeled to host guests. It felt like a cross between an Agatha Christie book and the movie Clue. It kept me guessing until the end, too. Very well done.

2 – When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

This book was amazing! So good, I would not change a thing. It was a well crafted novel, a slow burn that kept me guessing. The description was “Rear Window” meets “Get Out” and that is spot on. Sydney has returned to her mother’s home in Brooklyn after a nasty divorce and slowly realizes that something isn’t right. People are disappearing, but in weird ways, racism and gentrification is blatant and in your face, something dark and sinister is happening but she doesn’t know what.

The book is rich in history that most did not learn in history class. The story of redlining, gentrification, black people’s homes being stolen from them. The story is fascinating and horrifying and so well written.

3 – Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women by Lyz Lenz

This book is excellent! It came on my radar because I follow the author on Twitter and she is absolutely hilarious and smart and when her book came out, it sounded fascinating. Even if you are not pregnant, have never been pregnant, never plan to be pregnant, it is still a comprehensive, well-researched and informative read.

“In our cultural imagination the perfect mother is a white, middle-class, straight, cisgender, married woman. She announces her pregnancy on social media with a photo in which she’s smiling, draped in a gauzy dress, framing an almost nonexistent bump with her hands, wedding band glinting in the light. We are happy for her. We say, “Congrats,” over and over in the comments. Her hair is perfectly curled. Her husband smiles benignly behind her. She is the modern-day Virgin Mary.”

It’s funny, dark, depressing, hopeful and relevant in this current time. She writes about feminist issues, about women’s bodies, about pro-choice and anti-choice politics, about how men and politicians want to control women in all aspects of their lives. It felt like an “this day and age” Gloria Steinem book.

She writes about non-cis gendered women, writes about how women are supposed to 100% live up to an unreachable standard in all aspects (give birth, go back to work immediately, but DO NOT PUMP! Don’t bother your employer for modifications, but don’t take time off from work, but make sure you lose that baby weight in 2 weeks!). I liked that she was inclusive.

“America scorns a fat mother. In 2019, writer Virginia Sole-Smith reported in a story for New York Times Magazine that fertility clinics will refuse to work with women if they deem their body mass index (BMI) is too high.”

“To become pregnant and to have children is to wade deeper into a world where your body is no longer yours, your body is debated by politicians, your body is manhandled by medical practitioners who won’t listen, your body is a thing people in the Target checkout line and on the school playground and around a holiday table have opinions about.”

“Corporations will penalize you for taking time off. Childcare will be unaffordable. If you’re a white woman with a white smile, ruffly blouse, impossibly clean white jeans, a sign that reads “Live, Laugh, Love” on your wall, and perfect blonde curls cascading down your back (how does she do it, and with a baby?!), strangers will smile at you and tell you you’re blessed. But people will also tell you to use cloth diapers. Or disposable. Whichever one you are using is wrong. Whatever you do is wrong. You are exactly what society has told you to be, and yet, you are still wrong.”

This book will make you laugh, make you rage, make you want to BURN IT ALL DOWN. But I definitely recommend it. Read it. Especially now, when our rights are on the table, again.

(Under His Eye, right?)

4 – American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

This was a compelling, rich story about what the migrant’s story is. It was equal parts horrifying, sad, heartwarming and inspiring. These people are often fleeing horrific, deadly experiences and trying to save their lives or save their family member’s lives by trying to come to America. Immigration is a tough topic right now but reading about these stories and how hard it is to cross, it makes you wonder, perhaps they have earned their spot here?

5- Outsider (Kate Burkholder #12) by Linda Castillo

I really liked this installment in the series. I thought the story was good, the writing was great as usual. I liked that in this book they are taking refuge with the Amish as they hide from the bad guys. It was interesting reading about Kate’s background, too, and how she found law enforcement.

6 – The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Absolutely excellent. I loved the concept. It was relevant to our times. Rachel has a very popular crime podcast. She is on a new case for her podcast season, this time covering a rape trial. Intertwined with this trial is an unsolved murder from 25 years ago. There are small town politics, secrets, and classism. It was a very well done book and I enjoyed it a lot.

7 – When I was You by Amber Garza

“Then I drove to your house, irritated that you were forcing me to stalk you. It was annoying. I wanted to hang out with you in a noncreepy way, but you weren’t allowing it.”

This was a well done thriller. It was creepy, it kept me turning the page. I read 60% of the book in one sitting and then I had to stop to go to sleep because it was just getting too late!

The book reminded me of “You”. The creepy, stalker aspect. Kelly is a middle aged woman, her marriage is dying, she’s suffered some pretty horrible tragedies, and as a result had a mental break. The way the story unfolds is creative, slow and builds the suspense. Then Kelly meets a young mom and befriends her–but some people in Kelly’s life wonder if this new friend is real?

The story takes you in unexpected places and it’s very good. There were some parts towards the end I did not “buy” but overall I enjoyed the ride.

Happy Reading!

These posts have Amazon Affiliate links.